It was the summer of 2018. We had been working out of Tristan's college apartment for six months. The uproar of a bustling pool party on the ground level traveled four stories up. The cheers of joy from our friends across the hall loudly playing Super Smash Bros. in their living room bled through the walls. Our laptops scattered across a plastic folding table illuminated Daniel's groggy face after slowly waking up on Tristan's comfy brown couch for the 4th night in a row.
We'd had enough. Within moments of texting our early-stage business mentor Jim Kitchen for some help, we found ourselves skipping down Franklin Street to pick up the keys to a small space up an old set of wooden double doors in Jim's corporate office building. Since then, we've expanded our space within ½ 133 E Franklin St to host a complete black box studio, conference room, and post-production / office space with floors we even re-did ourselves.
We're at a place now where we're looking to move to a new spot better suited for us today. Bittersweet, yes. But in our growth over the years, we've found certain things to matter for the *perfect* office / studio space. Maybe some of these considerations can help your search as a business owner (specifically, agency owner).
The studio space can be a crucial asset to your business if set up correctly. Video production can be a valuable tool for your business regardless of whether or not you run an actual video production company – from internal brand marketing videos to corporate training videos. Some considerations you should make when creating your studio space:
- What size do you need?
First and foremost – as fun as it is to dream about shooting Mercedes car commercials or hip hop music videos in a giant green room for Drake in your studio space, it’s important to find a place best suited for your type of video needs. We shoot a lot of corporate, educational courses on a green screen / white background in our studio space, as well as interviews with companies and product commercials. So we don't necessarily need a 50' by 50' room with 20' ceilings. For that reason, something that's anywhere from 600 to 800 sq/ft will be sufficient for us.
- What's the audio environment?
Are you by the airport? Is your room sound insulated? Audio is half the battle when creating video – make sure your space can accommodate the best audio environment possible or be reworked into an environment that won't interfere with the audio quality of the room.
- Is your future studio space air-conditioned or has a drive-in bay?
We've found many warehouse / flex spaces to have the warehouse space not be air-conditioned – you don't want studio shoots not to have the optimal climate for the sake of the longevity of your camera gear and the comfort of your clients. Additionally, a drive-in bay can be hugely helpful if you're frequently loading and unloading heavy gear. Walking up and down a long set of stairs with thousands of pounds of camera equipment, neatly organized throughout an army of pelican cases, isn’t the workout plan Daniel designed for our team.
What's your budget? Define how much you are willing to spend annually, then monthly, as a function of your projected and contracted revenue. Your office space is vital to the vibe of your company, your team's collaboration, and your company's brand image, so you must be in a space you enjoy while also not stressing about paying your rent every month.
If you do a quick Google search online, many places advise allocating around 30% of your gross revenue towards your rent. I think that's a little on the high end. How much you pay in rent can vary from business to business. Still, we've found that spending around 10% of our annual revenue on rent can very comfortably accommodate our needs and more. Start your search with a conservative budget and stretch it as needed.
I think we've learned in a post-COVID world that work productivity can be dynamic and flexible between working in an office and remote. However, there's just that irreplaceable feeling of being in the office for a team like ours. Since our team now lives in Raleigh – our commute to Chapel Hill can take up to two hours each day. That adds up over time. The location of our new office will ideally be within 20 minutes of driving distance each way for our team.
Also, just like you probably won't buy your perfect home in a bad-looking neighborhood, make sure to attribute some value to the surrounding area of your potential space. We've ruled out a couple of excellent options because the surrounding area didn't feel right for various reasons outside of our control.
Size / Layout
With about 900 total square feet between our three significant rooms – studio, open office, and conference room – we've had enough space to accommodate our current needs. However, with the potential for new hires and projects this year that require a more extensive studio set, we figured it was time to size up.
For video companies, what works best isn't necessarily a flat layout with office spaces, but rather what's referred to as a flex space. These units have office spaces with a large warehouse attached, which can be transformed into a studio.
After seeing many spaces and working out of the same office for three years, we've concluded our optimal future layout as follows: a ~2000 sq/ft unit with open office space, break room / kitchen, conference room, two bathrooms, and a large (>600 sq/ft) conditioned studio space with high ceilings and sound insulation.
After researching and discovering many of these essential aspects of our potential new space, I hope that this can be a valuable set of considerations for anyone looking to take the next step in their business growth. Being right next door to our good friend and mentor, Jim Kitchen, has been both fun and invaluable the past few years. While we will miss him and all the memories we've made here dearly, we look forward to what's in store for the future.